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European Commission

Connie Hedegaard

European Commissioner for Climate Action

25th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol

Speech on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol

Geneva, 11 November 2012

I would like to thank the Swiss government for the invitation to participate today and to celebrate the 25thanniversary of the Montreal Protocol and its amazing successes.

The discovery of the hole in the ozone layer captured the world's attention in the mid-1980s. People became aware that everyday products like deodorant sprays or fridges contained dangerous man-made chemicals; and that these chemicals were attacking the ozone layer that protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

The discovery of the ozone hole also showed that mankind is capable of doing damage to the global environment. This is a lesson that is important today as the world population heads towards more than 9 billion. 

The Montreal Protocol has shown that –when the international community gets together and decides to act, it brings results: the global consumption of ozone depleting substance has been reduced by some 98%. If the international community continues implementing the Protocol the ozone layer should recover fully by the second half of this century. In this way, tens of millions of skin cancer and cataract cases have been avoided.

The European Union has been a leader in this process. We have not only implemented what has been agreed but on many occasions have moved faster than the Montreal protocol requires.

For instance, we completed the phase-out of HCFC consumption in 2010, which was10 years ahead of the deadline. We have also completely phased out methyl bromide which was used to control pests.  

By forcing the pace we have given a clear incentive to industry to innovate and take a lead in developing environmentally sound alternatives for the world market. A striking example is the introduction of refrigerators using hydrocarbons as early as 1992. Today this technology is used worldwide.

I believe there are some important lessons from our work within the Montreal Protocol.

First, the Protocol is legally binding on all parties, which means that it has teeth.  The EU will be pressing very hard for the new climate treaty to be legally binding as well.

Second, we need to set targets which are ambitious and that can be adjusted swiftly to keep up with advances in scientific knowledge. The possibility of 'adjustments' under the Montreal Protocol is a successful mechanism that would be worth considering in the context of the climate negotiations.

Third, the Montreal Protocol's Multilateral Fund shows that targeted financial support is key in ensuring that the targets are met. To date, the Multilateral Fund had approved over €2.15 billion to support more than 6800 projects in 145 developing countries.

Fourth, the Montreal Protocol includes trade provisions [that preclude parties to trade in ozone depleting substances with non-parties] that make it less attractive for countries to be free-riders and not participate in the joint effort.

Fifth, the Montreal Protocol has put in place a robust non-compliance procedure with the "Implementation Committee". This approach, which is meant to be supportive rather than punitive, has proven to be very effective.

Lastly, the Montreal Protocol itself has also done a huge amount to combat climate change. It is estimated that phasing out ozone depleting substances has avoided greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to more than 135 billion tonnes of CO2.

However, these climate benefits of the Montreal Protocol, 4-5 times more than what was achieved so far under Kyoto, are increasingly threatened by a rapid rise in emissions from HFCs, which are coming into widespread use as replacements for their ozone-depleting predecessors.

In our view, the Montreal Protocol is therefore best placed to support global action on HFCs since it has the relevant institutions and tools to deal with this problem. There could be no better way to mark the Montreal Protocol's 25thanniversary than by launching a global phase-down of HFCs.

We firmly believe that suitable alternatives with low climate effects are already available. Such alternatives are:

  • technically feasible including in warm climates,

  • safe,

  • energy efficient, and

  • economic.

This is why the European Commission is proposing ambitious EU-internal action to reduce HFCs in a proposal we have presented last Wednesday. I am proud to be able to announce here today that we propose to phase-down the supply of HFCs to the EU market from 2015 to 2030, in order to achieve a 80% reduction compared to the average supply from 2008 to 2011. In addition we will continue our efforts to contain HFCs in use. But, we also proposed to introduce placing on the market prohibitions for certain HFCs appliances when there are effective alternatives readily available. Together with effective end-of-life treatment of waste HFC we are confident to meet the ambition levels of the amendment proposals on a global phase-down put forward by a number of parties, which we as the European Union strongly support.

By demonstrating in the EU that climate-friendly products are technically feasible and represent a great business opportunity, we hope to stimulate global action on HFC emissions.

There is a chance today that – instead of phasing-in high climate-warming F-gases – developing countries could leapfrog the F-gas challenge. Moving from substances that deplete the ozone layer directly to climate-friendly alternatives in the same appliances can be achieved if we act quickly at the international level!

So, let's not miss this opportunity and let us make progress, here in Geneva but also at the UNFCCC COP in Doha later this month, towards an international agreement to reduce F-gas emissions globally.

I would like to finish by thanking all people that have contributed to the success of the Montreal Protocol over the past 25 years. I would especially like to thank the current Executive Secretary – Marco Gonzalez – for his leadership in recent years. You can all be very proud today. And I hope that in the coming years, the fight against climate change will achieve as good results as those achieved by the Montreal Protocol.  


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